Category Archives: Games

RU SB152?

Remember the failed Utah bill created by Florida ex-attorney Jack Thompson? It was designed to make the sale of mature-rated video games to minors (by retailers if they also advertised that they did not do so) a deceptive trade-practice.

As it panned out, the bill was denied by the governor on constitutional grounds. Thompson raised the ire of the Utah legislature, and has been having another go-around with the bill in Louisiana as SB152.

It hasn’t fared so well there, either.

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Game 2: Return of the Game

When there’s something I really enjoy, be it a book or a movie or a game — things I particularly liked — and I hear that there’s going to be a sequel, my immediate reaction is largely one of disappointment.

Sure, I’m intrigued, but suspicious … and with good reason. Nowhere does the immediate bitter taste of disappointment come so strongly than with games.

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Play it now: Project Eden

The Earth has become overpopulated. Cities just grow up and up and ground-level is something that most people — the lucky ones — never get near. Even the rundown and decrepit levels just below the clean, shiny, and urbane upper-city are the turf of the homeless, the hopeless, the diseased and the gangers. And things get just get worse further down.

But there’s something brewing. Something calling. A piece of the past that refuses to sleep.

Core Design, which was established in 1988, is a design studio I think of fondly, although the studio is essentially gone these days. The name is still the property of Eidos Interactive who acquired them as a part of CentreGold back in 1996. Core Design was responsible for Tomb Raider, but Project Eden was probably their finest PC game.

You can still find Project Eden in game-store budget bins for just a few dollars (skip the console version, the PC version is vastly superior, as usual). The game scored above average reviews, except for Computer Gaming World who gave it a miserable 1.5 out of 5. CGW’s influence was fairly widespread then, and coupled with some launch bugs and an astonishing lack of advertising, Project Eden barely sold through at retail despite shipping a lot of copies, making it one of the best games that you’ve never played.

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How much do all those unconstitutional video game laws cost, anyway?

Around the USA, umpty states (it must be about a dozen now) have passed gaming bills that seek to impose fines for minors purchasing mature-rated video games and computer games. Every single one of these has been found to be unconstitutional, yet what is functionally the same bill keeps popping up in US state legislatures.

If you’re a US taxpayer, and your state hasn’t yet tried one of these – or is going around again, you may wish to speak with your congressman about this:

  • Each of these bills is expensive to pass. If they’re being really cheap and lazy and just copying a bill that was already struck down on constitutional grounds, that costs around US$50,000 from State taxes. If the bill isn’t passed, you’re looking at maybe half of that just for the attempt.
  • If they’re actually coming up with a modification or a new bill, you’re looking at about US$250,000 from State taxes.
  • When the bill is inevitably overturned for the simple reason that it violates the US Bill of Rights, it’ll cost State taxpayers another US$250,000 or so, if the State decides to appeal.

So, everyone involved in passing the bills knows the bills cannot stand. If they don’t, then you might want to find yourself another representative next time the elections roll around.

But if everyone knows – why spend all this money and fuss on them? Well, votes, really. This is all about public image. The whole thing is supposed to show that they care about your kids. If some of that money was going to potholes or schoolbooks or park maintenance, I might believe it, but no — it’s being burned, pretty much.

Be sure to tell your representative how you expect her to vote when it comes to your taxpayer money on the line here. A half a million or so buys a lot of schoolbooks, and fills a lot of potholes. You might think that the money was rather better spent than on vain posturing about video games.

As for any talk about red states or blue states or political affiliations… I don’t really care. And neither should you, if your representatives aren’t… you know… representing your state and community’s best interests — regardless of which party they are a member of — then they’re not really doing the job now, are they?

Why can’t we ever go someplace nice?

Play It NowIt’s just stopped raining, but there’s still the occasional flash of lightning and rumbles of thunder. I’m trudging along what’s left of the road here. My radio is picking up a faint signal, thickly accented, but I can’t quite make it out over the wind.

Off to my right there’s gunfire. I glance in that direction, but it’s some distance away. The radio crackles with curses in Russian, and I hear more of it shouted on the wind. Nothing to do with me.

I trudge across the bridge. A pack of mutant dogs leap across the road on the far side a few metres in front of me, drawn to the men and gunfire. I’m not as interesting and they pass by without turning on me.

A battered old bus stop up ahead. Three men huddle around a makeshift fire under the shelter. One strums a tune on some ancient guitar. One stands as I approach. We look at each-other, and he sees that I am unarmed and shoulders his gun and crouches down with the others. I’m not any of their business either.

I listen for the crackles and clicks from my Geiger counter, and the blips from my anomaly detector, watching closely for the wavery refraction in the air that signals an anomaly. They’re all over (along with old patches of fallout), and what you can’t see can hurt you. There’s wind and dust and leaves blowing about and that doesn’t make it any easier.

There’s the shell of an old factory or mill or whatever the hell it is up ahead on my left. I pause and pull out my binoculars, and check the gaping windows and holes in the walls for signs of movement. Some bandit might have decided to stage an ambush, or some paranoid asshole might take a pot-shot at me for giggles.

There’s no sign of anything alive, though the air swirls in a couple places, kicking up loose crap. Dust-devils, maybe. More likely anomalies, but maybe just dust-devils.

I’m already carrying more than I care to, but who knows — there might be something useful stashed in a dark corner that hasn’t been looted yet, or someone else may have left a cache hidden. It’s worth checking before I try to bypass the military checkpoint up ahead. I have a long way to travel, and maybe I can find something I’m willing to trade with the boys at the bus stop for some food.

Up ahead, a blind mutated dog is dragging a corpse across the road towards the bushes. I pull out my pistol and fire a round in its general direction. The noise frightens it and it flees, rather than turning on me. It’s just like Christmas, and I hurry forward to see what useful items might be on the corpse.

It’s S.T.A.L.K.E.R – Shadow of Chernobyl. It’s a bit like The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. Oblivion with cancer. Haunted cancer.

It’s drab, dreary, uncertainly translated into English. It’s got a ton of flaws. It’s probably not your kind of game. It may not be mine either. Damn, though, it’s atmospheric, and partly based on a Russian book by the Strugatskys and film called Stalker, directed by Andrei Tarkovsky.

In “the zone” around Chernobyl where a second ‘event’ took place twenty years after the first, well, nothing’s very nice. There are mutants and there are opportunists and there are the military. About the best you can hope for is that the military leaves you alone, the mutants head in the other direction and that the opportunists don’t mistake you for an opportunity. Being left alone is right up there with eating regularly, or finding a cache of anti-radiation drugs, ammunition or medical supplies.

There’s a strong emphasis on combat. You’ll be packing ammunition everywhere, and using it. Don’t forget to pack lunch, either, and be prepared for your plans to be interrupted.

One thing for certain there’s always something going on somewhere nearby. The sounds of shouting and gunfire are even more common than the excited crackle from your Geiger counter.